LA DCA’s new performing arts chief is rooting for small orgs

An announcement last week could bode very well for small arts organizations in Los Angeles:  Ben Johnson, formerly from CAP-UCLA.  Johnson is receiving cheers for his stated mission to support small, diverse organizations in particular.

The department’s press release follows, adapted for our site from this webpage.

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[Press release]

City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs Announces Hiring of Ben Johnson as New Performing Arts Director

Los Angeles, 4/27/16 – The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) announced today the hiring of Ben Johnson as the Department’s new Performing Arts Director. Ben comes to DCA from UCLA where he has served as the Program Manager at the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP-UCLA) in Los Angeles, considered one of the top contemporary performing arts institutions in the country.

Previously, Mr. Johnson was the Director of Programs at United States Artists (LA), the Director of Northrop Concerts and Lectures at the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, and the Director of Education and Audience Development at the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (MI). He also worked at the Ordway Music Theater (St. Paul), and interned at the American Dance Festival (NC) and Walker Art Center (MN).

Danielle Brazell, DCA’s General Manager said: “It is an extraordinary pleasure to hire an individual of such experience and dedication to the performing arts. Ben has specialized in the creation and presentation of all forms of performing arts and arts education. He is known nationally and internationally for advocating on behalf of artists, and in developing unique and thoughtful programs that successfully transform communities through the arts.”

“Knowing the popularity and cultural value of live theater in Los Angeles, I championed creating this position to elevate the potential of the performing arts, with a special focus on supporting some of our smaller, more diverse nonprofit organizations,” said Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, and Chair of the City’s Arts, Parks, and Los Angeles River Committee. “Ben’s clear commitment to the value of arts and culture will help the Department of Cultural Affairs provide even greater access to high quality arts experiences to audiences across the City of Angels.”

As an experienced and seasoned multidisciplinary performing arts presenter and curator, Mr. Johnson is affiliated with many artists, foundations, funding organizations, and national and international peer institutions. He has lived in Los Angeles for several years, and during that time has developed a deep network of relationships that have engaged a broad and diverse spectrum of community-based arts and service organizations throughout LA.

Mr. Johnson said, “I believe that Los Angeles is one of the most creative cities on earth, and we are entering into an exciting “Golden-Age” of art making that is intersecting and melding our incredible performing, visual, film, media, and design communities together, and it is having an international impact. I want to ensure we are at the forefront of this important global conversation, as DCA is now positioned to lay an exciting new groundwork that will allow our artists to thrive in Los Angeles and beyond.”

Mr. Johnson will oversee DCA’s municipal theaters, manage partnerships with nonprofit operators, and establish pre-approved vendor lists of professional artists reflective of the city’s cultural, ethnic, and geographic diversity. In addition, he will develop new policies and services geared toward increasing cultural festival production in the city, including a program for performing arts groups to animate city-owned and operated theaters through short-term residencies. Mr. Johnson will also develop a technical assistance program for community groups to build organizational capacity and produce cultural events in parks, along our Great Streets, and in public spaces.

About the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA)

As a leading, progressive arts and cultural agency, DCA empowers Los Angeles’ vibrant communities by supporting and providing access to quality visual, literary, musical, performing, and educational arts programming; managing vital cultural centers; preserving historic sites; creating public art; and funding services provided by arts organizations and individual artists.

Formed in 1925, DCA promotes arts and culture as a way to ignite a powerful dialogue, engage LA’s residents and visitors, and ensure LA’s varied cultures are recognized, acknowledged, and experienced. DCA’s mission is to strengthen the quality of life in Los Angeles by stimulating and supporting arts and cultural activities, ensuring public access to the arts for residents and visitors alike.

DCA advances the social and economic impact of arts and culture through grantmaking, public art, community arts, and strategic marketing and development. DCA creates and supports arts programming, maximizing relationships with other city agencies, artists, and arts and cultural nonprofit organizations to provide excellent service in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles. For more information, please visit culturela.org, or follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/culturela; Twitter @culture_la; and Instagram @culture_la.

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